Monday, June 23, 2008

Labyrinth: A Childhood Betrayed

It is possible I am over stating my disappointment in the title of this post, or it is possible that I’m not giving quite enough weight to the trauma I experienced on Friday night. My waking nightmare began innocuously enough, Cruise Director Julie was out of town on a work trip, coming back much later in the evening, so I thought I would take advantage of an opportunity to stroll down amnesia lane and geek out to a favorite film of my childhood, Labyrinth.

I am now thoroughly convinced the rose tinted glasses of childhood obscure memory in a way even the most powerful hallucinogenic drugs cannot. I am also reminded that all eight year-olds, including myself at the time, will watch just about anything with a dancing Muppet in it, and enjoy it with such a fanatic devotion no rational media experience can match the blinding moment of joy experienced when said dancing Muppet begins riding around on the back of a dog… I must give quick credit to the commenters over at Retro Junk, because they seem to hold on to a fondness for this film that has extended well past childhood. If you feel the same way, I implore you, DO NOT purchase a copy of this film and watch it now. If you value your childhood memories and wish to keep Labyrinth tucked away in a small corner of your heart, whatever you do, do not re-watch the film… As a matter of fact, you should probably stop reading this too, because it’s not likely to get any kinder…
My horrifying experience, that I shall break into pros and cons as soon as my current derailment of thought has run it’s course, led me to reexamine the enjoyment of other things in my life from years gone by. Are the distorting effects of youth really the only reason why things we once enjoyed now fill us with shame and remorse, or as a people, are we just getting to a point where we put up with less poor quality, badly written, lamely executed, excuses for pop stars to wander around in tights? That’s not really fair. Bowie’s ‘Goblin King’ is far from the most disturbing thing from my youth that I enjoyed and am now painfully embarrassed about… I did make it a point to wake up early on Sunday mornings to catch Pacman in Pac Land…


It RULED cause it was on Sunday...

Beyond children’s programming, it seems that even prime time television was far more questionable than our memories allow us to believe. If you do not believe me, watch 3 random minutes of any episode of The Cosby Show… If you make it to a 4th minute, more power to you… True, our airwaves were not sullied by the specter of reality television the way they are now, but the difference is modern society KNOWS what they are watching is mindless crap. We all thought we were learning how to be a better family each week by seeing what colorful sweater Dr. Huxtable was wearing, and would deeply covet the moments of togetherness created by a family group lip synch, complete with the adorable scamp Rudi mocking a bluesy baritone… Man, we WERE stupid…

Back to the specific point I was working toward before realizing that my entire young life was a lie, Labyrinth is, in a word, notsogood… That being said, I’m sure because of my past enjoyment I can come up with SOME redeeming factors so as to not sink further into this mind numbing depression. I know what always helps, lists! I’ll list my pros, and cons of the film’s merits... I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats to see which list is longer… Personally, I’m on the edge of MY seat, looking to see how I’m going to polish this turd an come up with ANY sort of ‘pro’ list… Well, I guess if I can draft exciting meeting notes, and come up with a myriad of colorful ways to tell people they have no budget, I should be able to BS my way through this too…

Pros:

  1. Jennifer Connolly is introduced to the world as a sassy up and coming film star who does an excellent job capturing the incredibly annoying, selfish, hateful, intolerable nature of her character, Sarah. She really makes you want to ring her neck just a few minutes in!


  2. David Bowie’s screen time as the Goblin King, Jareth, is at least somewhat limited by the need to throw in more random Muppets doing things that puppets of previous generations could not do. In addition, the use of Muppet ‘technology’(?) is redeeming, provided you have never, ever, seen another film with a Muppet before this or since… No matter, if it means less of Bowie’s feathered hair and uncomfortably tight leggings, then all the better…

  3. The set design of the Labyrinth itself doesn’t look like it was built by a local kindergarten class… They had their hands full with the special effects…








4. Shelley Thompson gives a stirring performance in the role of Stepmother, rivaling her greatest work in the prior year’s critically acclaimed smash, ‘Morons from Outer Space’ where she played the equally challenging role of Nurse Perse. Apologies to Ms. Thompson for my heartless mockery… I had to pick one of the random characters who was on screen for less than a minute, and she’s the one I decided to rip into, besides, you don’t do a flick like ‘Morons from Outer Space’ without anticipating some good natured ribbing.



Cons:

  1. The aforementioned ‘special effects’ honestly looked like they had been thrown together by a group of toddlers with development issues… At least what they lacked in any sort of realism, they made up for by having virtually no point whatsoever… I’m referring specifically to a scene where a little gremlin Muppet thing is bouncing around the screen during one of the all-too-frequent Bowie musical montages… Personally I’ve always been under the impression that if you can’t convincingly make a Muppet jump around the screen for no reason, just don’t do it at all… We ALL see the haloed glow being created by the blue screen effect… Nobody’s fooled… Quickly, before I get hammered for having heightened expectations for the era, I refer to Ghostbusters… Two years earlier, light years ahead in the effects department… Of course, they don’t have Muppets doing human things, now DO they??

  2. David Bowie’s screen time is not nearly limited ENOUGH. No offense to the man’s acting chops, but this is a BAD role, with bad costuming, bad hair, bad musical numbers, bad dialog, and I DON’T WANT TO LOOK AT YOUR JUNK ANY MORE! If fully grown adult males are going to wander around in a film wearing tights, ESPECIALLY a KID’S film, they should have the decency to wear a shirt long enough to at least obscure the package region… Instead, our eyes are drawn to singing and dancing Muppets, positioned right next to Bowie’s tell tale bulge. This is not OK, and leads me to wonder if I actually have childhood trauma issues to discuss with a professional as a result of repeated viewings… I was just a child David Bowie… I certainly hope you at least have to inform your neighbors whenever you take up new residence…

  3. The infant Toby, complete with red striped pajamas. The pajamas are ridiculous. Give me a break… Seriously… It may be nitpicking, but it’s distracting I tell you… Honestly, who dresses their child like a barber’s pole? Between this, and the disturbingly hateful older sister, I don’t give this kid much of a chance even if he DOES escape the clutches of the Goblin King…

  4. The Bog of Eternal Stench. First and foremost, a funny enough idea, a big murky pit that smells bad, kids will dig that… Not a bad story telling devise… Something to fear, yucky and bad without being overly scary to the youths, oh so close to hitting the Pros list rather than the Cons. Then they go and ruin it… It’s not nearly enough to just tell us that the bog reeks like an un-showered carnie after a long night manning the tilt-a-whirl and nursing a 40 of Olde English, no, on top of the constant “It smells around here” and the fact the place is called the bog of eternal STENCH, the film makers felt we would not truly understand the horrors of the region if the bog itself didn’t make farting noises, repeatedly and often. HAHA! The bog farts… Moving on…

  5. I can’t say enough about the retched song and dance numbers throughout. What’s worse is they’re as catchy as they are annoying, so I’ve been living with ‘Magic Dance’ stuck in my head for the last three days. If my office wasn’t on the ground floor, I may have jumped out a window already. That’s right, Labyrinth doesn’t just ruin childhoods, it can also lead to suicide… Why is there no warning label on the box!!

I could go on, but I’ve already out-listed my pros, so now it’s just an exercise in whining. Once again, I really did enjoy this movie at one point in time, and if you have children, I’m not against allowing them to see it, while they’re children. By the time they get to be 12 or 13 though, you should destroy your copy and advise them to never, ever seek one out for themselves, the enjoyment of a future weekend decades away could hang in the balance…


That’s not totally fair. Labyrinth didn’t ruin my entire weekend, just Friday evening. By Saturday I had moved on enough to give cinema the benefit of the doubt, and was rewarded with a highly entertaining British horror romp Asylum. I’ll skip the write up in lieu of posting this link. There’s nothing to say about this flick that hasn’t been said here, except that to truly experience how menacing butcher-wrapped body parts can be, you’ll have to see it for yourself… I also feel that the segment ‘weird tailor’ doesn’t get the credit it deserves for inspiring the work of Michael Gottlieb and Edward Rugoff and their magnum opus, Mannequin… Otto the tailor’s sizing dummy certainly didn’t possess the same come hither gaze that Kim Cattrall sported in the 80’s, but he did harness the power to drive a man to madness!!!!


I re-acquainted myself with the 70’s cinema classic ‘Dirty Harry’ late Saturday night/Sunday morning, always a murderously good time in the form of a gritty cop procedural, and attempted to find some redeeming value in the cult indie epic ‘Townies’ on Sunday during the day. If nothing else, it contains infinitely more Kung Fu action than Labyrinth, and it’s not every day a film culminates with one of the town freaks wizzing on a captive, so there’s THAT I suppose… I may very well do a write up on one, or both of these movies at some point in the future, but I may not, and you can’t make me… Unless you threaten me with 70’s glam stars in unitards warbling cheesy songs of love and morality. Just so you can truly understand the pain I’m going through, even now days later, I leave you with the lyrics to Dance Magic, Dance…

You remind me of the babe
What babe? the babe with the power

What power? power of voodoo
Who do? you do

Do what? remind me of the babe
I saw my baby, crying hard as babe could cry

What could I do?

My baby's love had gone

And left my baby blue
Nobody knew:

CHORUS

What kind of magic spell to use?

Slime and snails

Or puppy dogs' tails

Thunder or lightning

Then baby said

Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)

Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance)

Put that baby spell on me

Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)

Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump)

Put that magic jump on me

Slap that baby, make him free


I saw my baby, trying hard as babe could try

What could I do?

My baby's fun had gone

And left my baby blue

Nobody knew

CHORUS

Dance magic, dance (dance magic, dance) (x4)

Jump magic, jump (jump magic, jump) (x2)

Put that baby spell on me (ooh)

4 comments:

Eric said...

Bowie's tell tale bulge. Nice!

Anonymous said...

Are you now stuck humming the tune to Magic Dance? *I* still am...

-OCK

Ryan said...

If you would like your faith in a happy childhood restored, watch "Tron". It holds up, as you can tell it was lovingly made by a director who cared about his project. Oh, and Bowie junk is nowhere to be seen (though there is a little Bridges/Boxleitner cameltoe to contend with).

OCKerouac said...

Tron rules more than many other things have ruled before it and since, and I was well into my 20's the last time I watched it, so I know that's not childhood talking...

I'd do a write up of it, but it's way easier to write about stuff that sucks...